bunsen_h: (Popperi)
[personal profile] bunsen_h
I recently had a dispute with a colleague about carbon monoxide.  I generally avoid trying to "pull rank" based on my chemistry degrees, but I couldn't let his misinformation pass -- it's a real safety issue.  But it got me to wondering how much people know about the gas.  So, a poll:

[Poll #2060730][Poll #2060730]

It's okay to be 100% sure you don't know.  Knowing the limits of your knowledge is a very good thing.

Date: 2017-01-04 06:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bunsen-h.livejournal.com
Carbon monoxide has the same molecular weight as nitrogen (28), which constitutes about 78% of air. Air also contains about 20% of oxygen, with a molecular weight of 32, and 2% argon, with a molecular/atomic weight of 40. There's also a variable amount of water vapour, with a molecular weight of 18.

So CO has just about the same density as air, and mixes with it completely. It's not like the air separates by molecular weight. CO doesn't settle into low-lying areas, though it might collect in a basement if that's where it's generated (e.g. a furnace) and there's poor air circulation. It also doesn't rise to the ceiling, except if it's generated in a heating device and rises as part of warm air. A CO detector should be placed where it will be exposed to any sources where it's likely to be generated.
Edited Date: 2017-01-04 06:53 pm (UTC)

Date: 2017-01-05 12:33 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] buttongirl.livejournal.com
Well you continue to educate me my friend! :-D

I based my answer on what I remembered folks (tv? Ads? something else?) saying about installing CO2 monitors low to the ground. I was a bit surprised when Dan told me the fire alarms (on the ceiling) were also supposed to check for CO2, but I guess this is why!

Date: 2017-01-05 06:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bunsen-h.livejournal.com
You're the third person to tell me that -- they remember from somewhere (though not sure where) that CO monitors should be positioned low. The only reason I can think of for that would be that air/heating vents are usually positioned at floor level.

Date: 2017-01-07 04:22 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] resonant.livejournal.com

Date: 2017-01-11 01:47 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] henrytroup.livejournal.com
I had to do the molecular weight arithmetic myself.

Note that two other hazards, propane and methane (natural gas) each have different mixing behaviour with air. Propane tends to sink, and methane to rise, iirc. But the spread of weights is not so big that you'd want to bet your life on it.

Date: 2017-01-11 05:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bunsen-h.livejournal.com
Yes. But you still have to add in the "very poor circulation" condition.

Back when chlorofluorocarbons' effect on the ozone layer was still "controversial", one of the "arguments" against their effect was that their molecular weights were so large that they couldn't possibly rise to high in the atmosphere. The rather obvious counterargument is to notice that humans don't tend to suffocate in low-lying areas from all of the argon, krypton, and xenon that should be collecting there.
Edited Date: 2017-01-11 05:05 pm (UTC)

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